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Jazz Fest 2023: A photo recap of the 57th festival

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire jazz students gearing up for the opening night at Pablo, from left are Tucker Seagraves, Braden Capelle, Cameron Waldal and Anthony Bagley.

Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about every year when Jazz Fest rolls around? Wonder no more ... 

We know that the inimitable magic of live music can't be replicated, but these photos from Friday, April 21, can help show why it truly is a "really big deal." 

All photos are by Shane Opatz. 

The academic side of Eau Claire Jazz Fest: Middle and high school students competing and learning from the best 

Male students playing saxophone, black shirts with blue and gold ties

Nathan Lemmens (center) of Green Bay-area Denmark High School took part in the saxophone master class in Centennial Hall.

Male instructor in front of a class, blue plaid shirt

One of the many master classes of Jazz Fest was delivered by UW-Eau Claire's Dr. Jeffery Crowell who led “How to Play the Drum Set.”

Robert Baca teaching a trumpet master class for 2023 Jazz Fest, standing in front of high school students, yellow shirt

UW-Eau Claire professor and director of jazz studies Robert Baca, who has spearheaded Jazz Fest for decades, led a master class on “How to Play the Trumpet” in Centennial Hall.

young male trombone students in a mast class listening to speaker

For Roseville, Minnesota, middle school students Anson Becker and George Anderson, a trombone master class offered tips and tricks to elevate their skills and performance techniques.

Horn players performing to a crowd in the student center, tall glass window wall behind them.

Visiting middle and high school students relaxed during a break from master classes while enjoying lunch in Davies Center and a concert by the Blugold student group The Hornheads.

young students cheering in a crowd, seated on the floor

While the main goal for the youth musicians attending Jazz Fest was some pretty serious competition and jazz instruction, the days also were filled with lots of fun and entertainment, seen here as they marvel at Blugold horn specialists performing.

The main events: Pablo Center and downtown Jazz Crawl shows 

Jazz Fest attendees walking in downtown Eau Claire

Droves of Jazz Fest 2023 attendees explored downtown Eau Claire where 19 venues hosted 48 performances over the two-day event.

customers checking out vinyl albums at Revival Records store

The festival weekend brings a surge of evening business to downtown like these Jazz Crawl attendees checking out vinyl albums at Revival Records on Barstow Street. Revival was an early anchor store in the redevelopment of the district.

overhead view of a drum set being played in a Jazz Crawl venue

May 2022 Blugold music graduate North Skager played drums for an early evening set with well-known Chippewa Valley swing band Cathy Reitz and 7Swing at the iconic Stone's Throw bar, host to some of Eau Claire's finest live music shows for 40-plus years.

female guitar player at a jazz crawl venue

Another former Blugold music student, Emily Watkins, was clearly all business when it came to her guitar playing during the 7Swing show.

jazz instruments

Waiting to be played ... instruments lined the edge of the RCU main stage in anticipation of the headliner shows at Pablo Center at the Confluence.

Male trombone player featured among band members

Chris Boelke, a sophomore music major from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, played the trombone with a student group called The Hornheads that kicked off the Friday night performances at Pablo Center.

female saxophone player on stage

For junior music major and jazz saxophonist Hannah Harder, the Pablo shows offered a thrilling solo in Jazz I's performance of "The Sun Waited for Me."

male guitar player on stage for Jazz Crawl

Senior neuroscience major Sean Jordan played in a later show at The Plus, performing lead guitar with his Minnesota-based band called Golden Morrison. "Even as a full-time student in Eau Claire, I can play gigs and rehearse with my band on weekends."

The 57th iteration of Eau Claire Jazz Fest proved two things — that the campus and community appetite for one of America's most original genres of music is going strong and that organizers at UW-Eau Claire and Eau Claire Jazz will continue to innovate and plan for a vibrant annual event that gets a little bigger and better each year. 

"The 2023 Eau Claire Jazz Festival truly was a 'Disneyland' of experiences for all who attended. With 99 school bands visiting our beautiful UWEC campus, 30-plus world-class masterclasses, over 2,700 folks at the Jazz Crawl and a sold-out concert series at Pablo Center, the festival brought enough inspiration and knowledge to last everyone until next year!" — Quentin Volk, executive director of Eau Claire Jazz and proud Blugold jazz studies alumnus.